Julian Clover wonders if we’ve yet discovered how to use hybrid connectivity to the TV.
A question posed to me in the week asked where hybrid television was going. You’ll remember it was the next big thing before last.
A few weeks ago IP Vision, which had launched the Fetch TV product, went into administration. Meanwhile BT Vision and its managed IP service, itself a hybrid, is bumping along with around 600,000 subscribers.
BT has far but given up on its product, but when Microsoft Mediaroom is shortly put out of its misery it will be towards another hybrid system, apart from that proposed by YouView.
I have always been suspicious of the marketing premise that seems to suggest you can target a group of people that don’t want to buy pay-TV. This was where BT started, gradually the telco introduced bundles, though in recent financial statements it has not placed the same emphasis on them.
Fetch TV had a dual business; on the one hand was the sale of mid to high-end set-top boxes. We’ve previously reported how the introduction of Freeview HD, though beneficial, did not really move the dial on set-tops. Its growth has come from integrated TVs, organic or otherwise.
The Fetch difference was the iPlayer, as one of the first companies to integrate the BBC catch-up service, the Sky Player (initially streaming a selection of Sky channels), and Fetch’s own movie selection.
It is hybrid systems that are now at the heart of what Lovefilm and Netflix are trying to do, using a variety of infrastructures, rather than the single route favoured by BT. The problem of course is that as the services become more popular then instead of managing one big system, you end up keeping an eye on several dozen other systems to maintain your service. Further down the road there is the challenge of when to switch off your service from a platform that is no longer being maintained. Progress, heh?
But hybrid continues to move forward. In the United States Barry Diller’s Aereo is now streaming over the air services and charging people for the privilege – added value comes from the network PVR.
Then in the UK Vision IPTV (no connection with Fetch TV) is now streaming dedicated packages Polska Plus, TeleFrance, Hellenic and TeleTurk for the Polish, French, Greek and Turkish speaking communities. It’s using the IP and MHEG IC functionality built into those Freeview HD boxes.
Maybe hybrid is turning into the SMS text message. We don’t quite know what it’s for until everyone starts using it.